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2

I have been writing on women's rights for a long time, and lately the flood of increasing incidents of physical and sexual threat to women are so overwhelming, that is seems naive to even write about stereotypes or attitudes, though of course, they are at the foundation.

I often wonder what the way out is, how we can move toward a more dignified existence for women, and keep thinking in circles. Everything is interdependent, interrelated, and prevents other aspects from transforming safely. For example, women asserting themselves more or fighting back puts them in the way of a social and possibly sexual and physical backlash, expecting society to support their freedom depends on the risk to them, the risk to them depends on policing, politicng depends on resources, resource allocation depends on government priorities... it goes on and on and on into paralysis.

As violence against women continues unabated, it is quite clear that the safety measures are failing. It is quite clear that the half-hearted government efforts are going nowhere or even being sustained. It is quite clear that writing articles, debates on television after major incidents are going nowhere. For all the media attention, media still doesn't even have a proper beat to keep the spotlight on. Regular crime reporters make brief forays into crimes against women if something is scandalous enough. There is no page that focuses relentless on one of the most crucial aspects of the country. There is no deeper analysis or strategy or think tank interested in this unprofitable but massive zone.

Short version. It is not working. It is time to take apart and rebuild what is not working.

I have come to the conclusion that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity. Time to do something different. In my view, it is discarding this defunct concept of safety. To experiment with greater or lesser risk. Lesser risk, I don't speak, because it is possible only for those with greater safety available, or in cultures like Saudi Arabia. Of course, that doesn't mean completely safe either.

Increasingly, it is apparent that there is no such thing as safety. Women are not even safe inside their own homes. An astonishing incident posted on Maidumji's blog begins with this woman traveling in the Delhi metro who tries to get space from a person leaning in invasively close on her, and gets victimized by the entire compartment at the end of it. It is fairly clear that even in full public sight, simply asking a sexual aggressor to back off can't be expected to work either. Let us just say... safety is lip service. There is no safety.

It is time to create something else in its place, and my inclination is to create freedom. To deliberately break all those safety barriers, because they are one way. You are not supposed to exit the barrier, because it is not safe, but staying within it isn't safe either. It is time to call the bluff and forget about safety altogether and make decisions based on other things. Things that really matter to us for their own sake, rather than some vague bribe to survival.

Want to eat ice cream at 2am, go out and do it. Want to wear skimpy clothers everywhere? Do  it. Want to challenge people getting aggressive with you? Do it. Will you be safe? Maybe. Maybe not. The same as if you didn't do it.

If we do this, are we likely to get hurt more often? Yes. How much more often? I don't know.

Will this mean increased crimes against women? possibly. In my view, it is a price we are paying whether we want or not. If we pay more of it, but get something precious in return, it is worth it.

But I bet we are likely to become more confident people too. As long as we are apologetically taking space demarcated for us "for our own good", no matter what the words say, we are second class citizens with no particular purpose being served for the reduced rights.

It is time to see the world like an exotic wildlife tour, which is an exciting adventure and sure, there is the risk of an animal mauling you to death, but that isn't the key point of the tour.

It is time to live our dreams regardless of dangers. To embrace that dangers are a fact of life. To pick ourselves up after accidents, dust ourselves off and keep walking. And to be extinguished maybe or reach a better world.

Won't that mean more women may also die? Sure, yes. But it isn't like women aren't dying at the moment. There is no particular advantage to be stuck at this level of risk. Higher levels of risk bring more freedoms, lower levels of risk bring more security in a cage. It is time to explore the options and pick ones that bring us results we want, rather than ones assigned to us based on someone else's estimation that is rooted in their guilt over harm to us, rather than their willingness to set us free.

In doing this, I think we will also break several delusions. The first delusion is that "women need to live". Unless a society wants itself reduced largely to men, they have to confront the fact that men need women to live too! Another delusion to break is that we are a relatively safe society for women - astonishingly there are many who still parrot this. We are a safe society for women while we hide the women - then too, not always. With women in the open, are we really a safe society? Let us find out. A third delusion to break is also that women cannot survive without the protection of men. Let us find that out too.

What will happen? I don't know, but my guess is if enough women do this and keep doing this, in my view, they will transform into a mirror for the world.

Do you not care that you are recommending danger? Yes, I do. Danger scares me too. But more than danger, I am scared of spending my life waiting for safe opportunities. One moment may be safe, another may not be. Safety can be reduced, increased, built. A moment spent is gone. Forever. A part of my life lived in fear. I suspect that if you take a long lived woman's life and calculate the time she lived following her own desires, it may not be all that different from that of the reckless thirty year old who died too early for it. I choose the freedom, because it is a gamble, and if I survive it, I will LIVE more in a year than I would in a decade.

The next time you avoid going late because no one can escort you, the next time you cringe from a lewd comment on the street, the next time you are not taken seriously because of your gender, the next time you are the unwilling recipient of sexual greed... think about what you would do if you didn't fear consequences. Then do it.

A moment of glorious time is worth an eternity without name.

Dear sister in womanhood, Soni Sori,

I am writing to you to let you know I received your letter. I read it. Your anguish reaches me. Your very important questions reach me. I am humbled at your ability to think beyond yourself in such dire circumstances. I had never heard of your school, but now I know it for one that nurtured a large heart and thinking mind. I know it as your school.

I have never suffered the horrors you speak of. I don't think I can even imagine them with any accuracy, yet I have suffered in my own way, and I know the heart break of screaming an anguished "why?" into the dark void and receiving no human touch. I have no answers for your questions, because they are my questions too, but I hear you ask them, and I want you to know that your words didn't sink into obscurity. They touched me. They matter. You matter.

Like you said, we share a bond of womanhood. We also share another bond. My nickname is Soni. My close family still calls me Soni. So this is a letter from one Soni to another. Perhaps in more ways than one, for I am as powerless as you are, even though my circumstances are better. I have no illusions that in your place I would be able to do a single thing different.

I don't know what I can do to give you hope. I have no faith in the humanity of any of those in power. They will not lift  a finger in aid unless their well being is threatened, and there is no one to threaten their well being on your behalf or mine. We don't reach that high. If your tormentor can get a bravery award, even as your letters were reaching us, what else needs to be said?

Our national media ignored your letters, our leaders ignored your plight. Still others spoke about it with casual attention as of equal significance in a flood of routine information. It is a way of protecting ourselves too, because if we don't see a crisis, then we don't end up facing our failure to do anything about it. The fact of the matter is that your torturer got an award for keeping inconveniences like you from bothering those with more important things to do, like stealing the very earth from under your feet.

Have faith in your education, because when people fail, it is ideas that see us through. I have not suffered your anguish, but I am a mother too, and I have had my own journey through life and I know one thing, ideas sustained me when nothing else would. Maybe they will help you too...

I think you bring up important questions. It is your education that contributed this nuanced view of how many things are going very wrong with the state and with its vulnerable people. Even if the weakest show suffering first, when a system decays, it destroys all it touches, sooner or later. I think that if we must work to find a way to find you safety in the name of humanity, we must fight this rot eating us inside out for our own survival.

I have no answers for you. I am helpless. As a citizen of India, you have no reach. I have no reach to demand justice on your behalf. The laws are tools in the hands of those we can't budge. The constitution is sold.

A great wrong is happening here and everyone from judges to politicians to police - in other words, the very people who ought to be protecting citizens are colluding to destroy them.

I will continue to seek ways to bring about change. For you, for me, for our children to inherit a world worth living in. That is all I can do, and I can't give up. Too much is at stake. I will not give up. That is my word to you.

And I hope more join us in this quest for these answers and that together, we succeed in time for you. If not, I ask your forgiveness and own my place among those who failed you.

In solidarity,

Vidyut

 

To the President, Chattisgarh government,  NHRC, National Commission for Women, SP Ankit & Co, whoever got this bastard an award, the judge who put Soni Sori in the hands of inhuman monsters and failed to provide adequate safeguards, the judges and Supreme Court and everyone who has still allowed her custody by those who tortured her even after two stones were recovered from her vagina and one from her anus in a MEDICAL EXAMINATION, everyone who is banning humanitarian visitors for Soni Sori without any legal basis, and anyone who has a voice and stayed silent.... Keede pade tum ko. May you fall prey to the same beast you ride.

16

In my years in Manali as a horsewoman, I often encountered soldiers, as the route from Manali to Ladakh and then on to Kashmir is through some prime trekking terrain.

Writing up some of those experiences here. Partly as a response to Indians who accuse me of being anti-National for simply believing "propaganda" about human right abuses.

If you ask any local around Manali about the Army, you will find that they keep their distance, and while they respect the work the Army does, there is a lot of frustration over their behavior. As a local once put it. If an Army truck nicks your car, and you get out and argue with them over the damage, chances are you'll get bashed. Absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.

A personal scare I had was when we used to be camped in Marhi, which is at the base of the Rohtang Pass. We used to ferry tourists on horses for joy rides to the snow point. Accommodation was a tarpaulin sheet pitched to form a tent. We had a helper with the horses who also stayed with us.

My boyfriend was from Delhi, and once, we left the helper in the camp and took a trip to Delhi for some work - I forget what. We got a call from a friend asking us to return urgently as the Army was looking for us, and it would be trouble if we didn't return. So we did.

We came back to find that our camp had been confiscated by the Army - saddles, utensils, bedding and all. Some soldiers and locals had got into a drunk fight at the video hall, and the next morning, the lads (including our helper) had all absconded fearing being beaten up by the soldiers who came looking for them. That is when they found the camp empty and took it away. Friends who tried to explain that it was not the helper's property got beaten trying to protect it.

We went to meet them and got interrogated thoroughly, if verbally about our business in the region - we explained that we were city people settled here for years living a nomadic life with horses. We told them we taught village kids tutions in the winter or migrated to the Mandi district, offered joy rides here in spring and autumn and took pack horses for high altitude trekking in the summers.

They concluded after taking this information, and told us we were free to leave. We asked them about our camp, and they said they didn't know anything about it. I don't know where I thought of the idea, but I asked them pretending to be very helpful that I knew a retired major general, and would it be helpful if we (as in including the officer) asked him for help? He would be sure to know more people than the ones working under the officer, and that may help us find our missing camp.

The officer said there was no need, and he would ask the soldiers himself. We took our leave, seeing that we could do nothing further. Two days later, we woke up in the morning to find our belongings dumped on the side of the road in front of the mud hut we had rented.

This is Himachal Pradesh in an almost completely Hindu area. We had done absolutely nothing that could be considered to be anti-National. Yet, our helper was fleeing for fear of his life/well being over a drunken brawl in a video parlour between the soldiers and some locals - which he hadn't participated in, it turned out, but got recognized for being there - they wanted to know from him who else was there.

As a woman trekking guide and Indian (unlike female clients with me), I had learned over the years to be wary of soldiers, because they may want to check my ID and ask questions of me far longer than others on the team, or they may try to act over friendly.

But, for these two issues, I have dozens where the Army people have been very nice. We have received information and aid from them when heading into remote terrain, we have had many a visits to their barracks and dinners and songs and fun.

I remember another incident when I had taken a horse from our camp to another place about six kilometers away. On the ride back, we landed up behind an Army Convoy. The road in that area is indistinguishable from the scenery, except the boulders are smaller. The resultant dust cloud was out of the question to be riding through, so when the road reached an area where it curved around a large ground, I took Ribot (my horse) off the road, and we cut across the ground to really race it so that we got ahead of the convoy... and we left it behind gradually. I had the speed advantage of a horse heading home to his herd 😀 The roads are better now, and a vehicle would likely be faster, but not in those days.

About a kilometer before our camp, there was a chai shop where I knew the owner and wanted some supplies too, and I stopped there and tied Ribot outside. The convoy passed again, and the last vehicle stopped. An officer came into the shop and asked the owner who owned the horse. Not knowing why the man wanted, both of us stayed quiet, but finally, I said it was my horse. He saw me at that point and realized I was a girl. He also recognized my clothes. He came up and shook hands with me and complimented me on my riding skills and left.

I have seen soldiers run rescues and I have heard them talk of the nerve wracking tension of living among citizens they can't harm and not knowing which of them could harm them. I have never been to an Army barrack in Kashmir, but they told me bluntly that they wouldn't have such casual contact with a civilian there because it wasn't safe.

The point I am trying to make here is that these are people. For good or for bad. I have suffered at their hands, and know for a fact that if they can hassle absolutely harmless people over an ego issue, in a terrain they consider friendly, they are definitely capable of worse among those they don't see as friends. At the same time, I don't buy the story that their sole purpose in life is to abuse people.

Like any people, they have their blessings and their dangers, and the real issue is more about enforcing human rights than debating intent.

To those calling me anti-National, I am not going to defend myself. You are entitled to your opinion. Just as I am to mine. And I think it does far more harm to our soldiers to deny crimes, because that actually is neglect. It also makes the entire Army complicit in the crimes through protecting criminals. If you love our soldiers, I fail to see how you don't value the honor of those working with integrity being sacrificed over those who don't. There is an urgent need to free soldiers of integrity from having to bear the burden of defending those without. Just as there is a need for the Kashmiris to find justice.

8

After 26/11 we had many intentions about improved functioning. A week or so ago, a man murdered his ex-wife INSIDE a women's police station and escaped. A Hindustan Times article quotes G K Pillai that we can't prevent another 26/11. US didn't provide adequate information. The response of our security forces still is out of scrutiny. When Keenan and Reuben got stabbed in Amboli, their girlfriends tried calling the cops for over fifteen minutes.

Kill Kasab, people insist. That will be the real justice. Will it? We did kill nine terrorists, you know? Did that bring any peace? It didn't to me. Kasab being dead won't either. These ten were pawns. Them being alive or dead does nothing, unless its source meets justice. Kayani refused an American request to remove a phone Lakhvi was using to direct terror operations from his cell - for a general idea on how close the source is to justice.

Our political apparatus is so paralyzed by fear of failure that it has no space to operate in. Holding talks is permissible, but not agreeing. Making "mistakes" will be invitation for mud slinging. We fail to see that nothing drastically different can be achieved without doing something different, and doing something different MUST involve risking something you don't know the results of. And it isn't like doing nothing prevents the "mistakes" from happening anyway - including mistakes of neglect.

What is it that one can do under such paralysis? Stagnate, of course. Except, in real life, everything moves on. Stagnating is the same as regressing, because obsolete ideas don't work.

From a country that fought and won a decisive war in 1971, we are a country fighting a three decade covert war and losing. Our losses exceed those of the "bad guys" - material, emotional and in lives. And that is in spite of flooding an area of our country with soldiers till citizens are fed up of them.

Bleeding by a thousand cuts, we are. And resilience is nothing if the next cut is not prevented.

We have a failure of political ability to leverage positive circumstances to advantage. The soldiers we deployed got insurgency down, but we did nothing except freezing that situation because it was "working". It wasn't "working", it was a window of opportunity created at great loss of life, limb and money. In freezing it, we are essentially asking our soldiers to hold open an opportunity indefinitely.

We didn't care that we are deploying our own soldiers into a permanent existence of jumping at shadows among our people and being unable to shoot at them without turning into monsters. We didn't care that we are condemning an entire population to living in "state arrest".

Sure, we can't reduce forces or lift AFSPA as long as insurgency remains, but what exactly DID we do politically to consolidate decreases in insurgency rather than this uneasy status quo through force? When things are well, we do nothing to avoid rocking the boat, when things are bad, we pressure the forces to make it safe again. We ignore military excess because it suits our lazy "do nothing" intent, or we lynch the military under pressure, but we have failed to do our job to finish the need to park them there.

Our border conflicts with China echo the same problem. We are open to talks, but not discussing boundaries. What are the talks to be about? The weather?

Economic reforms and basic inaction on any military front (side effect of being irresponsible) got us leverage over Pakistan in the world. It is powerful enough to literally destroy Pakistan in the eyes of the world by exposing them and contrasting against our "done nothing". Something we could have used to bring pressure and end the insurgency or at least seriously cripple it. And we gleefully enjoy it, forgetting that destruction of Pakistan will only be trouble for us. We stick to something we have been doing since the first Kashmir conflict - we plead to the world to describe our justice for us and keep committing to talks with Pakistan, sending endless dossiers about an increasing number of things. The fantasy here seems to be that the world will somehow be more interested in finding justice for India rather than itself, and we can leave it to them and play goody-goody.

How is this about 26/11? Because it is the same thing. Terrorists may originate in Pakistan or Timbuktoo, but as a sovereign country, we have to come up with our solutions that don't require things that wouldn't happen.

It is all interlinked. It is the basic attitude. When we don't want to risk our image doing something, and we don't want to risk our image not doing something, we do it in a way that renders it meaningless. We make it dependent on conditions that are impossible to fulfill and point fingers at those to excuse our culpability. We address symptoms to create a lot of things to show without touching the root. We make a big deal out of victimhood so we can pretend surviving itself is an achievement.

This 26/11, we should stop saying anything that has been said before and failed. About anything. Terrorism is a war of the mind, and unless we have original thinking, we will be bleeding with thousands of cuts.

We need to fight this war according to its own parameters. We can't fight a conventional war because of nukes. Not to mention that our problem is with the hatred spawning terrorists, which will only increase. We still have an ongoing leverage with the economy and world opinion etc and we could "destroy" Pakistan like that, but the pieces would still hate India, and they wouldn't even have marginal pretense of law and order. That may feel like victory, but will be useless, indeed counterproductive for our security.

We could hang Kasab, but that achieves us exactly nothing other than saving some money on guarding him, which should be saved even when he is alive. Crores sounds impressive, but it is hardly anything for a country the size of India if the reason is important enough. Money ought not to be a reason to sabotage the best anti-terror leverage India has, so that we can pretend we got justice. Killing Kasab isn't remotely justice. Kill Shakir Mir, and we'll talk.

26/11 was a security nightmare, we have pickled Kasab in crores worth in security - like Kashmir. No one has the guts to lower the security and risk "something happening". Better evaluation would be to ask exactly how many threats to Kasab did this crores worth security find or neutralize in three years? If none, scrap it and try good old cops. Then you can afford to keep him alive until old age, and trot him out every few months, reminding the world every time there are funds to be given, "agreements" with terrorists to be made, etc. That will do more to reduce resources available to terrorists than hanging him will.

Pakistan knows this. Why else do you think Prime Minister Gilani said that Kasab should be hanged and got no objection from any of the many terrorist groups and supporters? Bullying the government is a prime hobby there.

If, like some conspiracy theorists claim, ISI will get him killed, all the better - he is bait. We can nab more terrorists, maybe get even more info. If he dies at their hand, fine. He had the security of a prison. It didn't work. We have plenty of failures, this would be one more. A diplomatic loss, but not the end of the world. At least we did something different. Something that damages the source of terror - Kasab is our link to it. He is the button we can push to sabotage support to them time and over again. Killing him is plain stupid, though it may feel great.

We need to develop serious covert capabilities. Serious enough to inflict damage. Sabotage, assassinate, or whatever it takes to keep the terrorists busy trying to form in their own country, rather than in ours. Let any collateral damage be a deterrent to them than us.

We need to form a policy of zero rhetoric. If we make a demand, it must have a consequence attached, and that consequence must be carried out no matter what if the demand is not met. If we are not willing to do anything drastic, we must learn to talk small, but definite. No matter how small, but the important thing is that it must be done. The communication needs to be solid on our end in terms of what to expect.

Without this, there is no reason for Pakistan to do anything at all. Why would they, if doing nothing does them no harm, and they don't want to do it?

We have to find our determination to take risks to save our country. Right now, it is deteriorating, and a 26/11 without any sense of closure is only a symptom.

Corruption is big news these days. We all see it as that shining pinnacle of everything that is wrong with India because of the government. Sure, the government has done many things wrong. But is that the whole story?

Let me begin with saying that I don't believe those who say that the politicians in power are representative of Indian society when it comes to corruption. There are many who say that, and I think that is too simplistic. There are plenty of clients who lose time and again at elections. Independents who do come into power and serve their smaller responsibilities with grace and utility. Politicians who can do entire terms without becoming headlines at all, because they do what they are supposed to do, and it isn't a "selling subject".

Today, I'd like to look at different breeding grounds of corruption - they all are damaging us. Not only the politicians. We may currently be in a very frustrated and stuck space on the politicians, but there is no reason why we shouldn't go ahead and change what we can, anyway.

I am looking at corruption as anything we do by abdicating our responsibilities in our role and using circumstances for personal/affiliate advantage.

Corruption in the Indian Political System

I am looking at the whole lot of so called representatives of the public. The Indian mentality is still feudal. We don't see ourselves as the owners of the country, we see us as subjects. Instead of moving toward a space of healing and expanding our confidence and ownership, this mentality has consistently been abused by the government to keep us further enslaved. I am not speaking of specific political parties... yet. I think the method of using elections to obtain representation of the people itself is flawed and biased toward the more powerful and worse, has few safeguards against the utter overwhelming of contenders without such support. There is also such inherent use of power rather than system to meet objectives, that the opposition as a check is largely useless because everything easily is derailed into petty finger pointing that is quite irrelevant to the running of the country. We have all heard the scams, so I am not going to talk about them. We know it is a massive problem, it is loot. But there is other political corruption. Favoritism, subversion of the law in terms of attacks on people and properties for political differences, government sanctioned attacks on dissenting citizens and even the constant reduction of administration of the country into ego struggles and defensive evasions. It is still our country that gets eroded.

During the Lokpal Protests, many people are saying that we should first fix ourselves so that these corrupt people find no traction. That is not true. Even if every citizen miraculously became dead honest, it would have no impact on those gaming the system for fun and profit on levels of government, policy, opportunity, etc. Another opinion is that the JanLokpal not being elected is undemocratic. There are many offices that allow a country to function well. Politicians are the only elected ones among these. We don't elect Supreme Court Justices either. Are they undemocratic? On the other hand, I do understand the concern in the sense that we can't keep creating meta processes for everything. There has to come a point where everything must work, because without that, the meta body is just another breeding ground for corruption. This is true. Another conclusion that the government can't be challenged by a non-elected body is ridiculous. What do you mean can't? It already did. How long does one play ostrich? Some say it is unconstitutional. I don't see how it is unconstitutional to disempower a government not fulfilling their constitutional mandate. In my eyes, it is the government that has made the constitution irrelevant to its actions. If an amendment and further action needs planned to ensure the people can't be taken for a ride, I am all for it.

That said, I am not particularly a supporter for JanLokpal or opposer of it, in spite of all my very vocal articles. I am a supporter of any and all attempts to change this current system, because it is not working for me. Get me a solution that is "constitutional" and I will promote that too.

Corruption in the public space

This is literally symbolized by the policeman on the street pocketing money to overlook illegal actions. And it is true. They say power corrupts. The police have a lot of power over citizens. It is easy to play God with it, because every policeman has power over citizens, and it is impossible to monitor every single one. But there is a desperate need for reforms right from the policy level, where there is a trickle of funds that ought to be more. Salaries that ought to be better, equipment and training that need to be meticulously up to date. To a psychological level, where there is no sense of pride or responsibility about being a policeman, only a sense of power. These things can be addressed with well designed interventions. Organizations like ISABS would probably volunteer or offer cheap world class professionals very readily. On a functional level, there needs to be a more scientific approach overall, whether it is testing and improving on response abilities, fitness, communications, strategies, techniques, investigations, interrogations.... a constant attitude of evolution is essential. This goes right back to the top - more money needed.

This exact list can be copied and used for many organizations in service of people. But there are other forms of corruption - denying public space or respect in it for groups of people. Be it acting on, or encouraging prejudice. People become second class citizens based on their age, gender, religion, caste, class, political affiliation, etc. It may be promoted with very logical reasons, but there are two things fundamentally wrong with it, that people don't realize:

  • In a democracy, all citizens are equal before the law and have equal right to public space. By promoting hate and intolerance, we are not only creating conflict, we are SUBVERTING DEMOCRACY.
  • The other problem is allegations. Whether it is about a religious kind of people, or social, or economic. We have Courts to deal with wrongdoing. Do  NOT trust anyone who provides you with a judgment of another. ANYONE. Be it about Modi's corruption or evils of Islam. If you look carefully, anyone telling you what to think follows it with what to do about it. Think for yourself.

The main disease here is inertia. Things are so rigid and hierarchical that the lower you go down the ladder, the more people wait to be told what to do and the higher ones can't do anything because no one seems to support. More autonomy, engagement at all levels, would help create a sense of ownership of the process and thus reduce tendency to sell it short.

This should be backed by energetic investigation of complaints. There should be a clear culture of separating work from personal relationships which frees investigations from having to be goody goody or accommodate biases.

Corruption in individuals

This is really vast. People are used to taking the easy way for themselves and there is no civic consciousness. Subjects don't need it. They are ruled. They are told. In a democracy, it is a great idea to engage ownership. India IS free. India is our country and the garbage on the street is also ours. We need to understand that like tidying a home even if you have a maid, one day or the other, we'll have to tidy our locality, even though the public services maintain it.

It is an accepted modus operandi to find connections or bribe people to get work done. For example, this current problem with Airtel... Many people suggested that I pay their bill and sit quiet. Others asked me to find someone who is a big shot in the company and ask him to waive the charge. Not one person said, ok, I'll babysit Nisarga, you go, do your consumer complaint. In fact, I actively got advice not to approach courts because it would be futile. This kind of attitude needs to change. We cannot expect something to work if we don't work it.

Even small things like traveling on train tickets meant for someone else or paying some extra to get your driving licence.

I got advised to charge more if I wanted more work. Reason? Other established trainers were charging a lot of money I didn't feel justified taking. If I got hired, future audits would expect lower expenses. Therefore they hired someone who charged more. Company money. People earn a lot of goodwill spending what is not theirs. Another version of this is to hire the vendor who will provide a profitable margin to the recommender under the table. So instead of ensuring the company gets best, the person causes the company to get someone who profits the individual at the cost of the company.

Of NGOs taking on cases they know of and turning away the needy citing lack of funds. Of societies allowing some residents to use flats for commercial purposes for a bribe. Redevelopment builders bribing people to sign away their rights and lose any advantage they may have.

Paying, receiving or witnessing corruption

The important thing is to raise your voice when you see the problem. To be sure that what is happening becomes known to people. To condemn and ensure that it doesn't slide under the carpet unnoticed. To rise personally and question all our assumptions that it is okay if we have separate standards for ourselves because we are the "good guys"

Thin line of corruption

We are a culture heavy on relationships. It is very normal to reach out to people we know for help. Both giving and receiving. At what point does getting a work requirement fulfilled by a cousin become depriving the company of good providers or favoring one over the other? Is it saving money and hassle to contact someone we know or is it laziness about researching and choosing the best? These are matters that require serious reflection.

They require public acknowledgment and debate. We need to create that kind of a space to fight corruption. Aiming at the government is important and independent of what needs to happen on social and personal levels, but while we wait for actions to do later, there is no harm in getting started on these too.

What to do?

To stop fixing one face on corruption and to challenge it wherever you see it. To keep challenging corruption in the government or society or people and accept that we are part of the system rather than point fingers and exclude ourselves, because we can't change others, but we can change ourselves.

It will work if we work it.